A Top Recruiter Tells You How to Rock a Temporary Job Interview

By Robert Half on December 12, 2016 at 7:00am

You’ve discovered the advantages of working with a staffing firm that specializes in recruiting temporary accounting and finance professionals in your search for temporary work. That’s why you signed up with them. But now that it’s time to meet face to face, do you know how to succeed in a temporary job interview?

Candidates should prepare to answer questions about their background, their strengths and weaknesses, and why they’re interested in the role — just as they would if they were interviewing for a full-time position, says Lauren Coker, Robert Half senior regional manager.

“But they should steer clear of talking too much about long-term opportunities when it’s a temporary job,” she says. “That could make them look like a flight risk or someone who wouldn’t commit to the duration of the project.”

What other behind-the-scenes advice does Coker have to share about interviewing for a temporary job?

Here are three ways that she says will help you stand out in a temporary job interview — and win the assignment.

1. Research the company and know what it needs

Before the interview, you should research the company and look up the hiring manager on LinkedIn, Coker says.

Employers have a variety of reasons for engaging temporary workers, but it’s safe to say they’re looking for someone to fill a specific role or complete an immediate project. You can find out from the job description and also from your staffing agency what a business is looking for in a candidate.

Is the employer looking for a highly skilled finance professional who can supply specialized expertise? Does the company need to fill an entry-level position for someone on leave? Either way, you’ll want to focus on how you can quickly get up to speed to accomplish the tasks the company needs.

2. Prepare for skill-based interview questions

Say you’re interviewing for a temporary position as a tax accountant. You’ll want to talk about your top-notch research, organization and communication skills, your commitment to ethics and a strong attention to detail. Preparing for a temporary job interview for a part-time bookkeeping position? Discuss your experience in preparing financial statements, managing bank reconciliations and processing payroll.

“What you need to do in the job interview is to outline your specific skills,” Coker says. “Articulate your experience, from software and positions to industry experience, and explain how you’d transfer your skillsets to the temporary job you’re applying for.”

Yes, you may be asked common job interview questions, such as: “Can you tell me a little about yourself?” But the questions that will get to the heart of a temporary job interview are those that give you a chance to discuss similar work you’ve done in the past and the processes and technology you’re familiar with.

Practice your answers so you’re able to present information about your relevant skills and experience, your adaptability and flexibility, your ability to complete specific tasks and commit to a project, and how you can benefit the company.

Here are some examples of skills-related questions:

  • For an accounts payable job: “Tell us about a time you discovered a discrepancy in an invoice. How did you solve it?”
  • For a cost accounting job: “What accounting packages have you worked with, and which one best meet your needs?”
  • For internal auditing: “Have you ever discovered an inefficiency or fraud during an audit?”

For a short-term role, personality fit isn’t always the most critical component of the job interview, but your interpersonal skills still important.

“Hiring managers are going to want someone who fits in with their staff and collaborates with others on the team,” Coker says. “And you can be sure that if there are two or three people who are all equally qualified for the position, they will choose the person who they connect with most from a soft skills perspective.”

3. Be proactive and ready to work

Hiring managers need to know you’re going to be able to hit the ground running with little or no training for the temporary job. They also want to know you’re interested in the kind of work you’ll be doing.

“Be sure to express your interest in the job and that you’re ready to work right away, assuming you are,” Coker says. “Show that you have initiative, and that you care about bettering yourself and adding value to the organization.”

Keep in mind that some companies may be considering a temp-to-hire strategy, where they can evaluate potential hires before offering them a full-time position. This is one kind of temporary job interview where it’s fully acceptable to discuss your long-range goals.

“A lot of people who start out in temporary positions and do really well and make a great impression are going to be the first to be considered for a full-time opportunity, should one present itself,” Coker says.

“If you’re asked why you’re pursuing temporary work over full-time positions, talking about how temporary work fits into your current lifestyle would be appropriate.”

One more tidbit: The temporary job interview process often moves quicker than for full-time positions. That means you may need to provide references right away, and you might be called in for a second interview, where you can expect to discuss the next steps. Be prepared to start very soon in a temporary job.

Learn how Accountemps’ industry expertise and personalized job search service will help you find temporary positions well-matched to your unique skillset and requirements.

Lauren Coker
Lauren Coker

Lauren Coker is senior regional vice president for Robert Half in the North and South Carolina region. She has worked nearly two decades in specialized recruiting. She joined Robert Half in 1999 as a staffing manager and quickly became a division director, followed by the roles of branch manager and regional manager.

Follow Lauren's thought leadership in these posts on the Robert Half blog

Editor's note: This post has been updated recently.

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